The demand for smart products for the home is growing, and it was only a matter of time before the purveyors of smart tech turned their attention to a booming market: babies. Enter Hatch Baby, a smart nursery company launched by Amazon’s Alexa Fund.
The company was up and running in 2014, by 2016 made its way to Shark Tank, and its offerings are now among the top 100 baby products (of more than 200,000) on the Amazon marketplace. Hatch Baby sells a smart changing pad that can track your baby’s weight; for older kids, there’s a smart nightlight/sound machine. These devices are connected to an app that lets parents control them and track their kids’ interaction with them.
Amazon and Google are known for collecting and storing way too much data on their customers, and now that’s starting literally from birth.
If the product testimonials are to be believed, these kid-tracking gadgets are not only life-changing, but necessary. Amazon promises “peace of mind.” Make no mistake: companies such as Google and Amazon are not in the business of helping parents raise their children. They’re in the business of securing market share, killing the competition, and dominating all our time and money.
Surveillance and censorship
If you’ve seen Black Mirror, you probably recall the “Arkangel” episode in which a woman opts to have a chip implanted into her daughter that allows the mom to track all her movements, to see everything in her daughter’s line of sight, and to pixelate all images that could be disturbing to her child. While the chip technology is at first useful for ensuring the daughter’s safety, as she gets older, the daughter rebels against the constant tracking and surveillance. The mom is addicted to spying on her daughter, and the daughter despises her for it.
It’s easy for us to predict the disastrous implications when we’re watching this fictionalized narrative, so why can’t we foresee the ill effects of real-life tracking tech such as Hatch Baby?
Resilience versus convenience
As our lives become more convenient and efficient, we become less resilient. With Amazon and Google devouring every aspect of our lives and selling us almost everything we buy, the small- and medium-sized businesses that are the backbone of the Canadian economy suffer. We’re setting ourselves up for economic failure.
Amazon has been caught, according to a Bloomberg report, strong-arming other home smart-tech companies into letting their devices communicate with Alexa. Alexa collects data from smart light-switches about when a light has been turned on or off, so Amazon knows when the customer is home; smart TVs report what channels customers watch; smart locks let Amazon know whether the front door is bolted.
They see you when you’re sleeping
This means Google and Amazon know when you’re asleep, when you’re awake, when you’re home, what shows you’re watching and when, the current temperature in your living room, when you’re eating, what you’re buying – everything. They demand this data without our informed consent, then appease us with the lie that it’s all for our convenience.
Who is it all for?
Where Hatch Baby is concerned, parents need to put themselves in their children’s shoes and ask whether their kids’ lives being tracked is really to their benefit. We need to think about whether we need it – we've gotten by without this kind of “smart” tech till now, and we can continue to do so.